Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In awe of His unfathomable love

I am sitting here totally in awe, humbled at the enormity of the Father's love for me. I can't grasp how deep and wide and high and's too much for me.

The background: When I was in Nigeria on the Leadership Training Course, we had an offering time, and when I asked God what He wanted me to give, He asked for my iPod.

This was incredibly difficult for me, but I struggled through it and gave away my iPod. Through that process, God brought a freedom in my spirit that money could never buy. (I'm giving you the very shortened version of the experience...just fill in the gaps with lots of tears and a searing pain like your heart is being pierced).

When I came back to Uganda, I knew we needed to experience this painful, but completely liberating, experience...radical generosity.

So yesterday and today we gathered all the staff and students on the base and I taught the things I had learned about Faith and Finances on the leadership course. After today's teaching, we had an offering, just like the one in Nigeria, and lots of people gave and shared what they had. It was great.

And then it was over. Or so I thought.

I had previously planned to go out for lunch with one of the staff after the teaching, so we went and had a great lunch. As we were parting she said, "Oh, wait, I almost forgot!" and she started rummaging in her bag. Next thing I knew, she pulled out her iPod and handed it to me. "God told me to give this to you," she said with a big smile.

I can only imagine the look on my face. I couldn't believe this was really happening. Me? Was God really giving me back an iPod? This isn't possible.

Yet there it was, in my hand. And when I got home and recovered from the shock a little bit, I looked at it and discovered it has 8 GB of original one only had 1 GB.

What an amazing God. I'm so humbled. The first song I listened to..."Songbird" by Josh Garrels made me want to cry.

I just love the way God loves me.

What a seriously Happy Thanksgiving for me.

Thanks, Daddy...You are so worthy of all praise.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

6 things you might not know about me...

Okay, Miranda, I'm rising to the Gorgeous Blogger Award challenge to tell 6 things people most likely don't know about me. This was quite hard, because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and tell everyone everything about me. So I had to dig into the past, pre-Christ, pre-John days to find things that may not be so well known.

Drum roll please....

1. As an exchange student at Adelaide Uni, South Australia, I earned my pocket money by donning a Koala suit and walking around town in the sweltering heat to collect donations for the Wilderness Society.

2. After finishing uni in Adelaide, I decided to travel around the country, but had very little money. So I made my way from Adelaide to Darwin doing a variety of odd jobs, including picking grapes in Mildura, cleaning rooms on Hamilton Island, packing bananas in Tully, and working in a pokie machine lounge in Mt. Isa.

3. I left Australia and flew to Bali, Indonesia where I did a raja yoga meditation course led by a woman who believed in healing people by playing music on crystal bowls.

4. Having had enough calm and quiet on the meditation course, I longed for more excitement, so I joined a group and ended up scrambling on my belly through a jungle in Sumatra trekking wild elephants.

5. I originally came to Uganda as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and found myself surrounded by missionaries. Thanks to their love and friendship, I recommitted my life to Christ on the slopes of Mt. Elgon, on the border of Kenya and Uganda.

6. I have a dream of writing books one day, including my story, hopefully a novel or two, and any other books God leads me to.

Now, on to the second part of the tag 6 other Gorgeous Bloggers and hear their less-well-known anecdotes of life that may inspire, amuse and/or shock us with the reality of their humanity. These are:

Marysol (the beauty of your blog alone is worthy of the Gorgeous Blogger award, and I know you have lots to share), Alissa (always doing new things...let's hear some of 'em!), Jane (amazingly artistic, witty and creative), Sarah (someone who dreams big and goes for it), Amber (claiming victory over a very rough childhood by sharing it in her new're amazing, dear friend), and Michelle (if you haven't heard of this woman's work pioneering Iris ministries in southern Sudan, you are seriously missing out).

Looking forward to reading your posts, friends!

To see Miranda's post, and the links to her tagged bloggers, go here.

Have a fabulous weekend, friend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Granny then and now

I just got this recent pic from my dad.

I am so blessed by how much my Granny has's like night and day.

This was taken in August this year
at the rehabilitation center...

...and this was taken just this month
in Granny's new apartment.

What an answer to prayer, and testimony of God's great love.
Thanks to everyone who prayed, and is still praying, for my Granny.

I love you, Granny!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Update on our house

Just wanted to show you some photos of the progress of our house. We're planning to move to the YWAM base by the second week of December. Still have a number of things to do to finish the house, but hoping that it all comes together in time for the move. These are the 'Before' pics...will post the 'After' pics when we've moved in and settled a bit.

This is the front of the house
(it's been plastered since this photo was taken)

This is the back of the house

The backyard...trying to grow a hedge along the fence,
and lots of trees and plants, thanks to John

Outside my study...
going to have my own little verandah to sit on
and drink coffee with friends!

This is just inside the front door, in the sitting room area,
with the dining room and kitchen in the background

This was taken while standing in the kitchen,
looking at the dining room and part of the sitting room

The carpenters working on Noah and Kezi's wardrobe in their bedroom

The tile man finishing off the work in the kids' bathroom

One of the painters working on the ceiling in Noah and Kezi's room

Another painter working on the hallway

Inside my study...just need to clear the rubbish and finalize the painting

Please pray for us as we transition from living in a rented house in town, to living in community on the YWAM base. There will be a lot of adjustments and the need to rethink how we live as a family in a community.

Please also pray for the completion of our house, that it will be done in time and done well, and that it will be a blessing to live there.

Thanks so much!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Keziah's birthday

Keziah shared her 4th birthday recently with Elsie Jane, who turned 2.

They brought lots of little friends to celebrate their special day with them.

What a blessing to have the pool at White Castle...perfect for this beautiful climate.

This time the kids from the YWAM base were much more confident in the water, and had a lot of fun splashing around.

Elsie's dad gathered all the kids and helped them act out the story of when Jesus calmed the storm. I think the kids preferred making the waves for the storm, rather than calming it. Getting them to stop splashing almost needed a miracle.

The cake

Happy Birthday, Kezi! We love you!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I do what I do

This is what it's all about, what makes the gift of writing such a blessing to me.

Last month while I was in Nigeria, I had the privilege of writing about an amazing young woman called Patience Ashe Anyaku (left, waving her country's flag at her graduation ceremony). She made history in YWAM's University of the Nations by being the first Nigerian to graduate from the U of N within Nigeria. Her story was a joy to write, and it was posted here on the website.

Just today I received an email from her saying,

Thanks for the writing about my grad. It was so inspiring for me to how you captured my heart in that piece of writing. That piece is changing lives sister! I got a mail from a lady in Bangladesh who was supposed to give up teaching to go do a DTS. She gave it up, but couldn't get a ticket to go... she was disappointed in God but after reading my story on ywam site, she got encouraged and opened up to God to have His way in her life. I wrote her back and said I thank God for disappointing me to honor me in a grand style... in short, there is no disappointment if we are in the center of His will.... His way IS THE... our way only SEEM TO. God made this ‘an inspiring graduation’ and I feel honored to be His vessel of display

I, like Patience, also feel honored to be a writing vessel for His glory. May His name be lifted higher as people share their testimonies and encourage others.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sacrificial giving

One of the most profound, yet difficult, times on the LTC in Nigeria was an offering we had.

It was a multi-dimensional offering that went on for several hours. We were all asked to pray and ask God for His heart of generosity, and to ask Him to show each of us what we were to give. It started with giving each other words of encouragement, and then moved in to a time of giving money and personal items, either to specific people or into a general blessing box.

Counting the money offerings given in US dollars,
Nigerian Naira, West African CEFA, and Egyptian pounds.

The idea was that we would share as God led us, and be a blessing to others. Many of the students hadn't yet paid their school fees, so part of the goal was to clear as many students' school fees as possible. Everyone was encouraged to ask God what they could give, even if they didn't have money.

But the real heart behind the offering was to let generosity flow, and allow God to work in some of our attachments to money and possessions.

I didn't realize how hard this offering time would be for me. As I prayed, I felt God leading me to give away a personal possession that I used all the time. It wasn't an heirloom, not even a gift. It was just an item I had bought on furlough one time, but had become quite attached to.

The blessing box

For reasons I can't explain, giving that thing away was like cutting off my arm. I wept while I was putting it in the blessing box. I couldn't believe how much my heart hurt. It was the first time I can honestly say I gave sacrificially.

I wasn't the only one. Other people gave away suits, guitars, computers, cameras, best pairs of shoes, even bedsheets. Many people cried as they parted with their treasures, but in the evening, when people shared their testimonies, the joy of giving was real on their faces. All had given and all had received, and there was a strong atmosphere of love and unity among us.

I sent a text message to John telling him all about it. I was still sore and bruised, and was crying as I typed the message.

Offerings laid out on chairs

A little while later John sent back a message, "Aidan was asking me this evening why we have to sacrifice money, and not animals. I thought, 'what a question' and a long discussion ensued. When I told him what you had given away, he burst into tears."

This floored me. Why would Aidan cry over my offering? He wasn't attached to it.

It made me wonder if I was modelling something selfish that Aidan had picked up on, and by acting in the opposite manner (giving something special rather than clinging to it) I was breaking something that even he felt all those miles away.

The first thing Aidan asked me when I got off the bus after my long journey home was, "Mommy, why did God make you give that thing away?"

More offerings on chairs

First I had to explain that God didn't MAKE me give it away...He just prompted and I obeyed. Then we talked about greed and selfishness and getting too attached to material things. We talked about generosity and blessing others, and holding things lightly that God gives us. We talked about the freedom of not being chained down by possessions.

It's not an easy lesson to learn, but I'm grateful for the work God has done in my heart. It's like He helped me pry loose my strangle-hold on the things I have and see that, in the end, they really are just things.

Now if I can just keep remembering that...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Painfully pruned, expecting much fruit

I just spent 3 weeks in Nigeria for a YWAM Leadership Training Course led by the founders, Loren and Darlene Cunningham.

It was a wild ride of extremes for me...the teaching was excellent, but the living situation was hugely challenging for me. I was housed in a hot, smelly, crowded, noisy dorm with 19 other women, zero privacy and zero consideration of whether or not someone else wanted to rest or sleep.

"Be thankful you have a bed," someone said. Yes, good point, but not necessarily helpful when I'm tired and cranky and have no quiet place to recharge.

I struggled with the food. Then I'm hearing stories of times when whole YWAM bases lived on soya beans for 40 days. Our diet wasn't quite that extreme, even if I did lose 5 pounds in 3 weeks.

I struggled with the climate. Hot and humid, my clothes were always sticking to me to the point where I developed a prickly heat rash all over my back. Then I'm hearing stories of running schools in unfinished buildings in the middle of winter and the students having to write while wearing gloves. At least I could shower and cool off a bit.

Those were just the struggles with the basic creature comforts.

Then there were the other challenges that made me feel undermined, unvalued and second-rate. I don't believe this was intentional or probably went completely unnoticed...except by me.

One of the teachers commented in class that, "It's easy to say we want to be servant-hearted and that we're willing to serve others without recognition, but what about when others start to treat us like servants? How do we respond then?"

I had to seriously consider this question in light of my own situation, and came face to face with several other questions, "Who are you serving, after all? If you are doing this for Me, then what happens when you're not recognized, not appreciated, not valued? What happens if nobody cares whether or not you are comfortable or well fed? How will you respond if you are just a nobody in the eyes of those around you?"

Yes, I had learned all about Relinquishing My Rights on my DTS...I had said I would lay it all down and pick up my cross, nails and all, to follow Jesus. But I hadn't experienced what I felt was such a massive violation of "my rights" all at the same time like I did on this LTC, and I'm sorry to say I wasn't very eager to lay them down.

But I didn't have any choice...there were no options for me to change my situation: they wouldn't let me change rooms, I couldn't change the menu, and they wouldn't even let me put the fan on in our dorm room. I couldn't wave my CV around or expect total strangers to respect me...what made me any different from anyone else? Why should they grant me any favors?

All I could do was pray for grace, and He gave me that.

Now I'm home and trying to process it all. Although my instinct is to blot out the hardships from memory, I know God had lots of good lessons for me in those hardships. This morning I was reading John 15:1-17 and thinking, "If I ever thought I'd been pruned before, it was nothing compared to the LTC." God must have been doing some serious cutting back to the quick, because it felt like He stripped me to the bone to get rid of the superfluous and show me what I was made of. Looked like a lot of spineless jelly to me, but somewhere in the gloop I saw a tenacious hold on Christ that would not let go no matter the circumstances. Maybe that's the sticking power the leaders were talking about when they said, "Success is not quitting, no matter how hard it is."

If this truly was God pruning me, then I look forward to the 'much fruit' I will bear as a result. Like Beth Moore said, "No matter how scary it may seem, you can trust God with a pair of shears."

I'll write more about the amazing teachings, new friends, and faithful works of God in Nigeria when I've digested the hard stuff a bit more.

Was it all worth it? Definitely.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An unexpected gift for Bingi and I

This was an amazing gift for Bingi and I…

We had the opportunity to meet with the founder of Youth With A MissionLoren Cunningham…to ask about his visits to East Africa.

For YWAM’s 50th Anniversary celebrations next year, the regional communication team for East Africa is putting together a visual documentary of the history of YWAM in East Africa. I am gathering information from all the bases in the region to establish when and where YWAM first came to East Africa and how it spread from there.

Since we are with Loren and Darlene right now in Nigeria, I thought it would be good to take the opportunity and find out when and where he first came to East Africa for our visual documentary.

I explained my purpose to one of the LTC staff who then arranged for me to have 15 minutes with Loren just before we started the evening session.

I took Bingi with me because I knew this would be our only opportunity to have a personal meeting with Loren and I didn't want her to miss out. When we got to the door and I knocked, she stopped and backed off saying, “I’m scared. I’m scared.”

“Come on!” I said. “This is your only chance to meet Loren personally!”

We went into the guesthouse and all the other LTC leaders were there finishing supper.

After a few minutes, Loren came out and sat with us in the living room. Then he started talking.

One by one the other LTC leaders headed off to class.

But Loren kept talking.

Soon it was only me and Bingi left.

And Loren kept talking.

Concious of the time, I half-heartedly tried to leave at least 3 times,

but Loren kept talking.

Two hours later, when the other LTC leaders started coming back from class, Bingi and I said our good-byes. We couldn’t believe we had been given a private audience with Loren Cunningham for 2 hours!!!

His stories were so inspiring, encouraging and thought-provoking…I have much to process and digest.

What an amazing blessing.

Thanks, Daddy!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heading to Nigeria

Tonight I hop on the plane with Bingi Dorothy (another YWAMer from the Arua base), and we fly to Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

We will be attending a 3-week Leadership Training Course at the YWAM base, run by YWAM's co-founders Darlene and Loren Cunningham.

Darlene's help leaders develop their full potential in God.

My grow in my leadership gift and spend time at Jesus' feet soaking in His wisdom.

Over the last several years of serving on YWAM Arua's base leadership team, I've realized how very little I know about leading others. I'm pretty good at motivating myself and getting things done, but serving and mentoring others is a much greater challenge for me.

And yet following Jesus is all about relationship...we are the Body of Christ, after all, and I can't walk this journey alone.

There's a wonderful African proverb that always challenges me:

"If you want to go fast,
go alone.

If you want to go far,
go together."

My natural instinct wants to just do it all myself because I can get it done quicker, but my heart wants to do it as a team, which takes much longer and causes me no end of frustrations.

Please pray for me and Bingi, and the rest of the LTC staff and students, that God would meet each of us at our point of need, and bring the rest, refreshment and reinvisioning that we need to walk together and help lead this Body along His pathways.

Please also pray for John and the kids, and Bingi's family, that God would give them much grace, fun and joy over the next month while we are apart.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

God's timing once again proves best

It's easy to get frustrated when things don't work out according to my schedule, but after 12 years of living in Africa, I thought I'd gotten pretty used to being 'flexible.'

This week it was harder.

I'd taken an overnight bus to Kampala Sunday night to be at the Nigerian High Commission at 10 am sharp on Monday. The plan was to apply for my visa, and then go back to Arua Monday night. Since I'm about to leave for a month, I wanted to spend as much time in Arua with my family as possible.

When we reached the High Commission, however, we were told it was closed for Eid (Muslim holiday)...come back Wednesday.

Well, that's easier said than done, especially when home is a 7 hour bus ride away. Why didn't God give me the heads up before I left Arua so that I could have postponed my trip a couple days and just gone down Tuesday night instead? Then I could've been back Wednesday night and had more time with my family.

Frustrated, I had no choice but to stay in Kampala and wait for the High Commission to re-open.

One of the things I'd been planning to do anyway was to look for a formica counter top to mount our kitchen sink in. After about an hour of searching, I found one, and since I had time, made arrangements to buy it the next day and take it to be cut so the sink would fit in it.

Meanwhile, the YWAM base in Nigeria called John to let him know that another of our YWAM Arua staff, Dorothy Bingi, had been accepted for the same Leadership Training Course that I am attending. That meant she needed to get to Kampala as soon as possible to process her visa. And since I was there waiting, why didn't she join me and we go to the High Commission together on Wednesday?

She also needed a plane ticket to and from Nigeria, without which it is difficult to get a visa. Since I 'just happened' to be waiting in Kampala, why didn't I go to the Kenya Airways office and get her ticket sorted out?

Yes...the 'extra' time on my hands turned out to be just what I needed to help Bingi process her plane ticket, and run around with that 3 meter formica board all over Kampala trying to get it cut and then packed on a lorry for transport to Arua. Looks like that 'extra time' wasn't extra at all, in God's calculations.

Regularly I tell God, "Let Your will be done. You program my schedule so that I do the things on Your heart." But when something gets in the way of my plans, I can easily question God and think something has gone wrong. I gave all the right replies to my friends' texts of sympathy...'Yeah, it's a bummer, but God must have a reason for the delay.' But in my heart, I wondered if I just hadn't heard Him right, or worse, if He just hadn't told me.

It's harder to trust God when things aren't going as I think they should, but again and again He proves to me that time is in His hands, and He knows how much I need to do the things He's called me to do.

And of course, generous Dad that He is, there was even enough time for me to go to Sparkles and get a pedicure. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Riots in Kampala

It doesn't take much of a spark to ignite years of discontent simmering just below the surface. The King of the Buganda people was prevented from visiting part of his territory by the Ugandan government...the Buganda people got thing you know, cars are burning,
shops are looted,
people are dying.


Rioters face off to the police

Our newest YWAM staff members...the Fielders, a family from Coventry, UK...had just arrived in Uganda with their 3 teenage kids. They were in the base vehicle with Yolam, a YWAM Arua staff member, and had stopped in Kampala to pick up some supplies before heading up to Arua.

Without warning, the vehicles in front of them started turning around and driving back the way they'd come from. A crowd of people started fleeing after the vehicles and before they knew it, the vehicle was surrounded by people running and shouting.

Someone stopped next to their car and jabbed the air next to the window, shouting, "You whites! Go back to your country. We don't want you here!"

This family just spent the last 18 months reorganizing their lives in the UK to be able to uproot and transplant themselves here in Uganda. They gave up their home, their car, their possessions...the last thing they needed to hear on jet-lagged arrival was "Go home."

But people are not themselves at times like these. Some demonic kind of mob mentality takes over and people do and say crazy things.

Apparently rioters stopped women, and those wearing skirts were let go, and those wearing trousers were stripped of their clothes. What exactly does wearing trousers have to do with the Kabaka not being allowed to visit Kayunga district?

Some missionary friends of ours from Arua drove to Kampala yesterday morning to take their son to the orthodontist. They didn't realize the gravity of the situation in Kampala until they came into town and drove along the empty, rubble-strewn streets. They counted 35 burning tires that they had to maneuver around. Thankfully they got to their guest house safely and hunkered down to wait.

Please pray for the situation in Kampala, and for the love of Jesus to transform these lives.

Please pray for the Fielders (who reached Arua safely!) as they settle in to the YWAM base and begin adjusting to life in Uganda. Their heart is to start a ministry to the deaf...see

Please pray for our missionary friends who are planning to drive back up to Arua tomorrow.

(Photos taken from Associated Press pics posted on the Guardian link above.)